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It Should Not be About Rails Versus Trails

The Adirondack North Country Association hereby re-states its support for the mixed-use management objectives of the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor Final Management Plan, currently in force, and further supports the retention of all railroad infrastructure which can support economic development, including tourism, through enhanced rail operations in the future.” Resolution by the ANCA Board of Directors, September 27, 2012

It should be noted that the focus of ANCA’s resolution is on the “mixed-use management objectives” of the existing Unit Management Plan (UMP). ANCA sees significant economic opportunity in the retention and further use of the rails and in the broader use of the rail corridor for trail-based recreation including hiking, biking, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, etc. All of these are acknowledged to be desirable in the UMP and that plan actually directs DOT and DEC to develop both. Rail and trail activities are economic engines that can build our local and regional economies. We need to fully understand the synergy between them and we need better planning and focused investments to ensure we can have both.

It is a shame that we are having a long public debate about rails or trails. It is a choice that should not be made. Those who advocate removing the rails are asking the State to make a decision which will satisfy some people while angering others. “Win/Lose.” Elected and appointed officials should not be expected to do that when a “Win/Win” is possible. New York State agencies and many stakeholders have already spent years creating the current Unit Management Plan which, if fully implemented, will satisfy a very wide range of interests. The next step should be full implementation.

ANCA agreed to be the pre-application sponsor for federal Strategic Transportation Enhancement Program (STEP) funding because the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society (ARPS) had done a detailed analysis to determine how much it would cost to rehabilitate the line to Class II passenger service (up to 35 miles an hour). On the trail issue, it is more complicated. The UMP calls for a north-south trail and says it should move outside of the travel corridor to adjoining State lands and private lands (through easements) as needed to avoid obstacles. However, neither DEC nor DOT has defined this trail with specific delineations on maps or on the ground. What is needed south of Saranac Lake is detailed trail planning to determine the best physical layout, development costs, and legal and operational issues. This will require an interagency effort with key stakeholders, including local governments and recreational users.

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